By Steve Plunkett

After weathering a firestorm of protests against a hefty tax hike proposed last year, Beach & Park District officials chose the rollback rate for no change in property taxes for the coming fiscal year.
“We’re going to be probably struggling in the future for a year or two,” said District Commissioner Robert Rollins, voicing concern about the coronavirus pandemic.
While the rate dropped about 3 cents, from 91 cents per $1,000 of taxable value to a proposed 88 cents, the net effect will be no increase or decrease for most households. Keeping the 91-cent rate would have meant the owner of a $300,000 house would have paid almost $10 more.
Meanwhile, the city set its tentative property tax at $3.68 per $1,000 for a 6.6% increase.
Tentative rates can be cut during September budget hearings but not raised. How they affect individuals depends not only on a property’s assessed value but also how long the owner has held a homestead exemption.
If the tentative rates are adopted, Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke and her husband, for example, will pay about $90 in Beach & Park taxes and $374 in city taxes on their Mizner Court penthouse condo. Last year they owed a total $13 less — the same Beach & Park amount and about $361 to the city. The O’Rourkes have had homestead exemptions since well before 2008, when the state’s property tax cap became portable.
The Beach & Park District’s $38.7 million budget for the year beginning Oct. 1 includes $5 million to start building the Boca National Golf Course, $955,000 for renovations at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and $300,000 for beach renourishment.
“I don’t see how we cannot go forward” with funding the golf course construction, Rollins said. “We put ourselves in a box with our ad valorem revenue last year. No way can you get tax (revenue) relief this year given the business environment and the COVID.”
The City Council will have its first of two public hearings on the budget at 6 p.m. Sept. 8. The Beach & Park District’s first hearing is set for 8 p.m. Sept. 10.

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